Two Sides of the Story

There are always two sides to every story. Like it or not. If it’s your story, you will tell your side. And someone else will tell theirs. How often do both stories match? It’s hard to say. Stories are open to interpretation.

 Both sides of the story can hold truth. It’s not that one side is all lies and the other side all truth. There could be a little of both woven into each story. Or perhaps one party is just outright lying. And they aren’t concerned about getting the facts right.  Perhaps their motives and allegiances are less than honorable.

 Time will tell which story is true. Perhaps the truth isn’t made know in the time frame needed. But there will always be a day of reckoning. Sometimes sooner. Sometimes later.

There are those who don’t seek the truth. They’re looking for ideas of convenience.  Stories that suit their evil intentions. They don’t care who is harmed or whose life is ruined. Revenge is fair game. In their mind. 

I see that happening in a story I read recently. A man was unfairly accused of an act he didn’t commit. Many believed the false charges. Others helped bring him down. In fact, they killed him. By throwing stones at him. His dying wish was that they would not be held accountable for their actions.  Such forgiveness.  Such mercy coming from a dying man. There was another man in the crowd.  He stood by silently watching. He held the coats of those throwing stones at the innocent man. His deafening silence was approval. 

Perhaps if he had spoken up, the man’s life could have been saved. But it wasn’t to be. He remained silent. I wonder if that scene ever kept him awake at night.

You can read the entire story in Acts 6-8:1.

I wonder how many times I have remained silent when I should have spoken up. How many wrongs could I have helped right by moving out of my comfort zone. By putting my reputation on the line. By telling the truth when lies were being spread.

I see this world. This country. In chaos. We’ve lost sight of our Christian values. Why have so many of us who live those values kept them to ourselves? What are we afraid of? Being canceled? It is a real thing. Speaking in opposition to current cultural norms can ruin a person’s livelihood these days. 

Sometimes coming to the truth is a process. It’s a study of the evidence.  Not giving up or making a decision until all the facts have been presented and weighed. 


Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12


Stephen was one of seven men chosen to help distribute food to the widows. In doing that, he had opportunities to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He spoke the truth and was arrested. Some men began to lie about him. They invented stories and accusations against this man who was living in obedience to God. And then he spoke the story of God’s love and plan of redemption for his people. He shared how his Jewish ancestors had followed God’s plan at times. And other times, they deliberately disobeyed him. Stephen pointedly called the Jewish leaders heathens and stubborn people. He accused them of being deaf to the truth. He reminded them that they had deliberately disobeyed God’s laws. Obviously, they were outraged. They seized him and had him stoned to death.

Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. Acts 8:1

I am struck by this Bible verse everytime I read it. It speaks so of humanity. Thinking we’re doing the right thing when we’ve not accepted truth. We’ve accepted information that doesn’t give us pause. We choose convenience over fact finding. We obey lies and are comfortable doing it. Shame on us. We must ask ourselves some hard questions. What if speaking the truth causes persecution? What if we suffer for speaking biblical truth? Are we up for the task? Oh. Scripture says we will suffer. We’ve been exempt for so long that we bristle at the thought of being on the wrong side of the law when we’ve not committed a crime. But it can happen. It already is in some places.

I speak only for myself when I say I’m happy with an easy life. I enjoy being comfortable. I don’t want to be persecuted or canceled. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law for being obedient to Christ. But what if it comes to that? Will my faith hold strong? Or will I wilt under pressure? I pray my faith holds me to the end.

For Saul, it seemed simple. At first. He hunted and persecuted those who believed that Jesus was the Promised Messiah. He did not believe, and he fought it with all his might. Then a strange thing happened. He had a roadside experience where the truth was revealed to him by none other than Christ himself.  It was so powerful that he couldn’t deny or ignore it. He realized he had been living a lie. He had been hunting and killing innocent people. Oh. The remorse. But he was now a changed man. He was one of them. He was a believer. As he studied and examined the Scriptures, he learned the error of his ways. He now made it his mission to tell others the Good News. Regardless of the cost. And it did cost him. He was imprisoned. He was beaten and stoned. He eventually paid with his life. All for the sake of Christ.

Choosing the easy way may pay for a time. But when eternity is at stake, let’s choose to pay the cost. There’s no turning back once we cross the finish line. We’re in eternity for eternity. There’s no going back. Let’s get our story right and stick to the truth.

Praise be to God for his indescribable gift.

Prisoners of War

There is a movement. An uprising, if you will. Trying to silence those who don’t agree with certain social and political ideals. It seems to have come on suddenly, but really. It’s been years in the making.  The social and political ideals have been formulated by ones who have taken a stand against biblical truths. They’re fighting for justice. They say. They are silencing those who don’t fall in line with their agenda.

We think this type of persecution is new. It’s not. It’s been happening for centuries. Just not in our country. It’s a new thing for us. We’ve always had the freedom to say what we want. Now the belt is tightening, and we’ve begun to squirm with a new, unfamiliar discomfort. 

When will things return to normal? We ask. I’m afraid we’ve awakened a new normal. And there’s no going back. There are those who won’t ever let us go back. All in one fell swoop, this country has lost its innocence. We can no longer claim to be accepting of differences of opinion. It’s only one way or be canceled.

 Reminds me of a story I read recently in Daniel 1-3 in the Old Testament.


Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord : He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. Psalms 91:1-2


The city of Jerusalem had been conquered by the Babylonians. The best of the best Jewish people were taken prisoner. Their biblical names were exchanged for pagan names. They were forced to learn a new culture, along with the pagan customs and lifestyle. Indoctrination was the name of the game. They were tested on their acceptance of their new lifestyle. If they passed, they were promised careers in the royal palace. They were treated like royalty with the idea that they would discard their childhood learning and customs.

The lesson: Beware when your enemies try to become your friends.

But some of the young men didn’t forget their rich heritage.  They remembered their Jewish customs and remained faithful to the One True God. In their hearts, they were Jewish regardless of where their next meal came from. They were God’s favored people living in exile in a foreign land.

Oh. It was their country’s fault. Their country had forsaken God and his commands. And not just for a couple of years. They ignored God’s leading for hundreds of years. They ignored the warnings he spoke through his prophets. So He allowed hard times and persecution to come their way. But even though not all the people had forsaken God, they all still suffered. And they were captured along with those who had turned their backs on God.

There’s a lesson we can learn from these young men. Oh. We’re not out of the fire yet. The embers are just getting warm.  But this nation still has time to repent and return to God. Will we do it or will we continue down the path of sin?

If we as believers have prepared ourselves, we can face the fire head on. Just as the three men did. They were able to stand for truth. At all costs. Without fear of what lay ahead for them. They would not and did not back down from their decision to disobey their orders. 

If you read their story, you know that there was an extra person with them in the fire. They weren’t alone in their suffering. They stood true to their beliefs. They didn’t waver in their faith. And God was with them each step of the way. In the most difficult moment, they knew they were in God’s hands. Regardless of what happened. If they survived or not, they would stand true for the Living God as they stood in the fire. And He stood with them.

It’s a necessary reminder for us as we travel difficult paths. We aren’t alone. We don’t have to bow to those feeding us lies. We can stand strong in our faith. And regardless of the outcome, God is with us.

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalms 16:8

If we don’t stand for truth and speak up, we may begin to hear the rocks speak out for us. What fools we would be. Do we want to gain the world and lose our souls? 

Favored or Not

The popular Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know” asks Mary if she knows what she is getting into by giving birth to the Son of God. When the angel of God appeared to her, he said that she had found favor with God. She was bewildered. What had she done to be noticed by God? Scripture doesn’t say why God chose her.

When Jesus was 8 days old, an old man named Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her very soul. He said this God child would cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. This babe had been sent as a sign from God, but many would oppose him. And as a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts would be revealed. She realized her days would not be easy.

As a twelve year old, Jesus was a growing boy. As he grew physically and spiritually, he found favor with God and man. That favor lay upon him as he matured and began his ministry, but it didn’t exempt him from terrible abuse and suffering at the hands of his accusers. Favor led him straight to his death on the cross.

Mary had pondered many unanswered questions in her heart ever since she found out she was going to be a mother. After all, this God child was born from her virgin womb. How is that even possible? Did Mary feel favored when she searched frantically for her twelve year old son who disappeared for three days while meeting with leaders in the temple? Did Mary know that favor meant that she would endure the most heart wrenching days of her life as her son was tortured and killed? Did she ever wonder if God’s favor was supposed to be so difficult? I wonder if she pondered what kind of favor this was meant to be, since it caused some of the most heartbreaking times of her life.


Don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God. Luke 1:30


At times, we pray for favor. We ask for God’s blessing on our lives. We’re asking for health, wealth and happiness. We’re hoping bad times escape us. We hope the trials of life somehow miss us. We want our blessings to be just that, blessings with no sort of hurt or trouble in the mix.

Does the mother of a special needs child feel as if she’s found favor when her responsibility for her child is as overwhelming as her love is? Does the grandchild who’s caring for their elderly grandmother feel favored when time and funds are in high demand and short supply?

What is God’s favor anyway? Do we think God’s favor has been removed from us when we suffer? When we endure hardships or trials? Paul wrote that we are to rejoice when we run into problems and trials. Don’t we know that those trials will produce endurance? Endurance develops strength of character. Strength of character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. God says this hope will not lead to disappointment. I see favor written all over our suffering. Favor that God has paved a way for us straight to Calvary. He hasn’t forgotten us or abandoned us. He who suffered for us is with us in our suffering.

For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:1-2, 5

Undeserved privilege. Favor. Mercy. Peace. Joy. Confidence. Because of God’s great love for us, we can confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing His glory. But if we say we want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead, why do we try to avoid the fellowship of suffering that comes with it?

Fellowship of Suffering

What does it mean? The fellowship of suffering? I thought fellowship was a coming together of like minds. Enjoying the company of common ground. A friendly association with someone of like interests. But suffering? I’ve not really bought into that.

Honestly. The suffering that I’ve experienced probably isn’t true suffering. Compared to what I see and know of others. My life is mild. Oh sure. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. Fears. Loss. Discouragement. Trying times. Typical life difficulties.

But I’ve never hung on a cross and died. For myself or for others. I’ve never been spat on. I’ve never been stripped naked and forced to carry a heavy cross on my raw beaten back. I’ve never worn a crown of thorns. 

I’ve never received a life altering diagnosis.  I’ve never been handcuffed and stood before a judge.  I’ve never been served papers.  I’ve never been beaten.  I’ve never lost everything. Oh.  I’ve lost.  I’ve lost family members.  I’ve lost jobs.  I’ve lost friends. 

So what do I know of suffering?

I’ve never been put on trial for crimes I didn’t commit. And then sentenced to death. My mother never wept for my cruel death. 

Oh. I’ve been betrayed by those I thought I could trust. I’ve been handed over to others who carried out their own plans for me. I’ve had cruel words spoken to my face. I’ve been bullied.

But have I really suffered? Is it suffering when someone publicly outs me for words spoken in private? When I’ve felt safe to express my opinion but then publicly called on the carpet for it?

Where is the glory in suffering? Where is the fellowship? Is my suffering a product of my own doing? Or of my own undoing?


And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17


Elisabeth Elliott says that suffering is never for nothing.  There are hard lessons to learn during the time of suffering.  She says that suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.

I have to wonder if I’ve caused some of my own suffering. Am I my own thorn in my side? Do I blame God and others when I need to remove the mote from my own eye? Is my suffering another name for the thorn in the side I’ve been given? And can I get past the bitterness in order to use that thorn as a source of ministry to others just like me?

Will I look back on these days in awe and wonder that I survived without a scratch and thank my heavenly Father that I didn’t really suffer? Or will I realize that what I thought was suffering was not even a drop in the bucket of misery?   Only time will tell. 

What if my suffering is still in front of me. What if my current state of suffering really isn’t suffering at all.

I have to ask myself the question. What does my suffering produce? Does it lead to anger and bitterness? Lashing out at others about the unfairness of God? Trying to punish God for treating me so poorly? How could a loving God allow this? Or do I surrender in knowing that my God is carrying me through the depths of pain and loss and uncertainty? Do I find joy in a closer relationship with a God who loves me even when unexpected twists and turns come in life? Do I allow myself to be wrapped in the sweet arms of Jesus and just be held?

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? Romans 8:35

It’s in the surrender and acceptance of my situation that leads me to fellowship.  Once all the thought of getting even or standing my ground passes, the knowing of God’s love gives the sweet peace that nothing else matters.  The pain.  The loss.  The heartache.  The hurt.  The healing.  The new normal.  The surrender of my will to a loving God brings a sweet fellowship that surpasses everything else.  The trust that God will be with me every step of the way gives a calming peace to my soul.

When It Seems God Is Failing

In Exodus 3, God called Moses to return to Egypt to deliver his people.  The Israelites.  Moses fought the call.  Who am I to do such a thing?  He didn’t think he was good enough.  He didn’t think he was a good speaker.  He didn’t think he could make the Egyptian leaders believe him.  Even when God allowed Aaron to speak so Moses could perform the miracles, Moses resisted.  Even when God gave him clear instructions, Moses still wavered.  God reminded him that his people’s misery and oppression had been seen.  His people’s cries for mercy had been heard.  Moses was to go.  That was God’s clear command.  And God promised to lead Moses and his people to a land that was flowing with milk and honey.

So Moses went to Pharaoh.  Aaron spoke God’s words and Moses performed God’s miracles before Pharaoh.  But Pharaoh refused to give in to God and caused greater suffering for the Israelites.

Even with God’s promise, the Israelite’s suffering worsened before they were delivered.  They had done no wrong, but their workload was increased.  They were beaten.  They were abused.  They were threatened.

Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”  Exodus 5:22-23 NRSV

Could this have been the same cry that rang out from Jesus’ lips as he hung on that cross?  My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?  Jesus was in agony.  He felt abandoned by his Father.   Had God left him all alone on that cross?  Not only was the physical pain of being nailed to the cross unbearable, but he was bearing the weight of the entire world’s sins on his shoulders.

Death by crucifixion was barbaric.  It brought immense physical suffering.  It was cruel.  It was painful.  Nails were hammered into his hands and feet.  His breathing was ragged.  He had severe blood loss.  Broken ribs.  Collapsed lungs.  Exhausted thighs.  Shoulders pulled from their sockets.  A slow agonizing death.

Yes, there are times when life doesn’t make sense.  When things are going wrong.  Horribly wrong.  Others make decisions that impact innocent lives.  We feel abandoned.  We may feel that we’re in exile with no way of escape.  It would seem that God is failing.


Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.  John 16:33


The thing is.  I’ve said some of those same words.  I’m not good enough.  I can’t do this.  God, why am I going through this situation?  When will it end?  God, where are you?  God, why have you forsaken me?  God, why have you done nothing to deliver me?

When it seems that those you trusted have failed you, there is One who never fails.  God is not slow.  He is patient.  He is working behind the scenes.  Putting everything in place.  Oh.  It may seem as if he hasn’t heard the prayers.  It may seem as if he hasn’t seen our plight.  It may seem as if he doesn’t care.  He has said that we will have trouble in this life.  We will suffer.  We will face trials and deep sorrows.

But God has given us a promise that we must hold to as long as we have breath.  He will right our wrongs.  Oh.  Not necessarily as we would like, but in His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-present way.  God does not fail.  He is in control.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”  Jeremiah 29:11-14

God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.